Changing the bully that rules the world

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, June 17, 2008

“Develop a mind that clings to nothing. Only then will we be able to see things as they actually are and respond with the full range of our emotional capacity and wisdom.” —from Wherever You Go There Are

There is something freeing about “clinging to nothing.” I would have to call it a Zen thing. It was quite some time ago that I read the book. Years before reading the book I remember having a boss when I was employed with Job Service in Albert Lea and he, my boss, had overheard a young lad say ‘wherever you go there you are’. We both enjoyed the statement. Then years later it was nice to find this as the title of a book.

Zen and Taoism have much to offer and I believe they both ascribe to “cling to nothing.” Our society, it seems to me, is more often about acquiring things, making more money, acquiring more personal power…climbing the ladder. Unfortunately this seems to drive many of us and perhaps it shouldn’t be bad.

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Now it seems we are attempting to advance our position in Iraq and “the disconnect between Washington’s stay-the-course Republicans — President Bush and Senator John McCain, in particular — and the Iraqi government has grown too wide to ignore. As the administration pushes for a legal agreement to extend the American military presence in Iraq, the Iraqis are pushing back. That is a positive sign.” The United Nations resolution authorizing the American role in Iraq expires at the end of this year. The two governments have been quietly negotiating their own deal.

This brings to mind again Carol Bly’s “Changing the Bully That Rules The World” where she discusses moral stage development.

Stage I she calls a premoral stage: Everything is myself. I am all there is.

Stage II is another premoral stage: I see there are others out there—I have realized I am not the only one in the world. I still define good as having my wants met, but presumably those people out there also have their wants.

Stage III I am thinking like a moral person; that is, some of the things I believe in require some short-term sacrifice of pleasure on my part. I can see that much. I now think of good or virtue as whatever qualities bring me acceptance or strokes from my peers.

Stage IV Fealty to my sovereign group: I enjoy obeying authority. It gives me a sense of belonging and it enlarges me. At this stage one kills Southeast Asians if one’s national leaders want it done. One defines good by citing authority.

Stage V I have finally developed my own ethical code. At least I think for myself. If my country forces me to commit an atrocity, I will do it if I am terrified, but I will not think it is right.

Stage VI In this stage I realize I will get my hands red. I can no longer be pure and think very well of myself. One does not go to every battle for justice, because if one did one could not go in strength to the great ones. Jesus frequently “slipped through the crowd.” Stage VI is the most ethically conscious stage Carol could think of.

Carol said if she had any genuine feeling for a Stage VII, she would offer it. She tells us people stay at given stages of thought (before moving on) for longer or shorter periods —some of this no doubt depending on neurophysiological heritage. But the significant arbiters are how much (a) love and respect that person has received at some point from someone (the place-in-the-sun theory) in a combination with (b) the level of civil, questioning, story-hearing mentorship that person has received, at some point, from an adult in authority. Peer listening doesn’t do it.

Farther along in the book Tom Kitwood tells us that because modern people spend such a significant share of their lives working in large organizations, they scarcely can recover from the psychological effects in the time left them after retirement.

If you decide to purchase this book or check it out from the library there are many good stories to compliment Carol’s thoughts. Two of my favorite stories are The Woman Lit by Fireflies by Jim Harrison and A Mother’s Tale” by James Agee and Thomas McGrath’s Ode for the American Dead in Asia.